Rabbits: The Complete Guide to Caring for Rabbits

All over the world, rabbits are seen as one of the cutest animals as pets. Their wiggly nose and tiny hands make them extremely adorable to even look at. Having said that, people consider rabbits to be easy pets. Is that the case, though? What all goes into caring for a pet rabbit?

Well, we answer that and other questions for you in this complete guide to owning a pet rabbit. You will have a comprehensive understanding of your pet rabbit and how you can make their life the best experience for it and you by the time you get to the end of this article!

Natural history and Evolution of the Species

Humankind first discovered rabbits in France during the Pliocene epoch, which was about 10 million years ago. They had swept across Europe by the beginning of the Pleistocene, 8 million years later.

Rabbits

They relocated to the relative warmth of southern Europe during the Ice Age; in fact, the word Spain is derived from a Phoenician word that means “shore of the island of rabbits.”

The wild rabbit breed with which we share our homes has descended from the scientifically called Oryctolagus cuniculus.

The moniker means “rabbit who burrows,” and that, in turn, comes from the ability of European Wild Rabbits to develop and maintain intricate burrow networks, which sets them apart from all other species.

House-rabbit guardians are familiar with the instinct for construction (and, especially in these post-modern times, deconstruction) in the form of rearranging, digging, and chewing.

Emotionally healthy chewing is channeled into non-harmful activities using grass mats, cardboard, and untreated wood.

Further, rabbits have evolved to dig burrows and hide under the surface of the ground due to their status of being prey to apex predators like eagles, hawks, and other wild animals.

This behavior has been emulated in generations of the rabbit species, leading them to burrow animals.

Rabbit breeds

Today there are over 180 rabbit breeds in the world. Since the Pliocene period, rabbits have increased in population all over the world.

Gradually, as humankind started domesticating rabbits to keep them as pets or rear them for meat and fur, society created different rabbit breeds by artificially preserving traits and features of rabbits that were aesthetic to look at or useful in some manner.

Naturally, different rabbit breeds have other appearances. While some differ in color, some differ in their size and temperament. Over here, we have created a list of some of the most popular rabbit breeds that you can have as pets!

Mini Rex

The mini rex rabbit breed is easily one of the most popular rabbit breeds for keeping pets. They weigh only about four lbs and are, all in all, low-maintenance pets. This rabbit breed is a highly adorable and calm creature that makes for excellent pets.

Holland Lop

This rabbit breed is a little different from the mini rex and yet, an excellent choice to have as a pet. A little smaller than mini rexes, the Holland Lop is a fun and activity-loving animal.

While it does need some effort to maintain in the summers, it’s relatively easy to maintain for the rest of the year!

Dutch Lop

The Dutch Lop rabbit breed makes for another excellent pet animal because of its amicable and loving temperament. However, these rabbits will need regular grooming and exercise in order to stay healthy.

Dwarf Hotot

This rabbit breed makes for an adorable pet but has its fair share of health problems.

Therefore, if you choose to bring home this rabbit breed, you must ensure that it eats the right kind, quality, and quantity of food to prevent health issues.

Moreover, you will need to ensure that your pet rabbit gets the necessary amount of exercise to stay physically fit.

Mini Lop

This rabbit breed is one of the larger and more intelligent breeds of rabbits. Moreover, they make great pets due to their low-maintenance needs and their love for human affection.

Rabbit behavior

It’s necessary to understand how rabbits behave if you’re parenting one. However, that’s easier said than done. Rabbits are pretty discreet and subtle in terms of showing behavioral changes.

This makes determining what your pet rabbit is going through more challenging. A rabbit’s ears are a perfect place to start. The rabbit is likely to be relaxed and pleased if they are close together, looking upwards and facing outwards.

A concerned rabbit’s ears, on the other hand, will be resting against its body. The eyes and body posture of a rabbit are also signs.

Furthermore, their behavior can reveal how they are feeling; for example, if a rabbit is hiding, it may be anxious. Here are some convenient pointers you can make use of to understand your bunny a little better!

Happiness

If your rabbit is relaxed and its limbs are extended away from its body, it typically means that your rabbit is happy or peaceful.

Another way to understand your pet rabbit’s mood is to observe its jump/ If it changes direction midway through its leap, it means that your rabbit is enjoying itself.

Discontentment

If your pet rabbit is standing up with its muscled tensed up and paws up in front of it (known as a boxing position), your rabbit is likely discontent, angry or irritated. This body language may be accompanied by growling or twitchiness.

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Agitation and sadness

Your first marker to identify anxiety and sadness in your pet rabbit is if your rabbit is in a crouched position or hiding.

This is generally also the precursor to your rabbit finding a place to burrow or hide to protect itself from anything it perceives to be dangerous.

Is a rabbit a pet animal?

Yes, a rabbit is a pet animal and a great one too. Rabbits are not only loving and loyal creatures but also highly playful and adorable ones. There are some specific factors you must consider before you either buy or adopt a pet rabbit.

Woman in Black Tank Top Holding White Rabbit

We have answered some common questions people have before they bring home a pet rabbit below. Read them to understand whether rabbits make for good pets in your lifestyle!

Are rabbits suitable for you, and are you right for rabbits?

Here are some pointers and tips you can use to decide whether bringing a rabbit into your life and your home is a good idea or not!

Your living space

If you live in small living quarters like a studio apartment and you want a pet that can adjust comfortably in it without making noise or creating a nuisance for your neighbors, a rabbit can be a great pet choice for you.

Rabbits are quiet creatures that rarely make noise. Further, being small animals themselves, your living space is likely to be big enough for it to be comfortable in.

Cuddly companions

The fact is that rabbits enjoy human presence. Therefore, your pet rabbit will form a bond with you and shower you with its love.

Woman petting adorable rabbit Free Photo

Therefore, rabbits also make for great companions if you are looking for in a pet animal. You can even train your bunny to listen to your voice and commands.

Easy to train animals

Rabbits are pretty tractable when it comes to teaching them desirable behavior and commands. This also makes it easier for you to handle your pet rabbit at home.

All you’d really need to train your rabbit is a few treats and consistent training for short amounts of time.

Animals with a personality

Rabbits have distinct personalities, which many people who have never owned one as a pet are unaware of. These creatures can be fascinating, friendly, and engaging.

Before you choose to take a rabbit home as a pet, spend some time getting to know him to make sure his personality matches yours.

Some bunnies are exuberant and energetic, while others are quiet and timid, just like more traditional pets.

Clean pet animals

Bunnies will defecate all over the place if they are not litterbox trained; nonetheless, they are generally clean creatures.

They can easily be litterbox-trained and will typically keep themselves very clean with frequent grooming if given clean, dry, paper-based bedding in their cages to absorb urine and a place to defecate in the corner.

Brushing their bunnies a few times a week might help keep them clean.

Rabbits are not the best family animals.

Rabbits with small children are generally not a good combination. Rabbits need to be handled carefully and in a calm atmosphere. Rabbits, being prey animals, are often startled and agitated by the loud noises and uncontrolled movements associated with delighted children.

Adopting a rabbit may require you to wait till your children are older. Further, children often lose interest in taking care of rabbits or pets in general when they realize they don’t want to put in the effort.

Therefore, you might want to wait till your children are a little more mature to give in to their pleas of wanting a pet rabbit!

Should you buy or adopt a rabbit?

The fact is that buying a rabbit is usually a bad idea due to poor and unethical breeding practices followed by commercial breeders.

The issues that buying rabbits create are far too prominent to simply ignore. We’ve highlighted some of these concerns here so you can make an informed decision about whether to adopt or buy a rabbit.

Rabbits are generally unhappy in pet stores.

Animals require interaction with their kind along with proper attention to their health. Breeders generally tend to neglect these needs in chasing profits.

Ultimately, purchasing animals from pet stores is a bad idea because these pet stores usually source these animals from rabbit breeders and their breeding mills.

These breeding mills have deplorable conditions, with animals being bred too frequently and maintained in close quarters and sold at extremely low prices as common commodities.

Adopting a rabbit helps reduce the burden on shelters.

The East Coast Rabbit Rescue statistics tell us that even though rabbits are the third most desirable pets following cats and dogs, they are also third in the list of being abandoned at animal rescue shelters.

Due to this, the shelters are often overburdened with taking care of bunny rabbits and other animals.

Therefore, when you adopt a rabbit from such shelters, you ensure that you give an innocent animal a forever home and also improve the quality of life of the other animals at the shelter.

You can keep your conscience clear.

Any animal that you bring home as a pet, whether it’s a rabbit or a dog, is going to be a part of your family. Moreover, it’s a living thing with actual feelings. Simply adopting an animal like that means that your sole motive is to love that animal with all your heart.

When you buy a pet, your motive may not be as pure. Therefore, adoption also allows you to give your pet a loving home without partaking and contributing toward ill practices in the rabbit breeding industry, where the sole motive is profit.

Training Rabbits

Rabbits are actually animals that are pretty easy to train. Moreover, rabbits are gregarious creatures who enjoy pleasing their masters. They can be taught to perform agility courses, fetch, leap, and spin on command with a little patience and consistency.

Kissing a rabbit

Training your rabbit to do some actions and follow some routines makes your life and your rabbit’s life in your shared space much easier and more enjoyable.

When it comes to training your pet rabbit to do tricks and certain actions, the best method that you can use is positive reinforcement.

The basic idea behind using positive reinforcement to train your pet rabbit is to show that it secures some benefits every time it listens to a command, such as a treat or an affectionate scratch on the head.

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Gradually, your pet rabbit will understand that it is expected to listen to those commands. Some tips that you can use to train your pet rabbit are as follows –

  • The way to make rabbits listen to you is to incentivize their obedience. Your bunny is much more likely to listen to you if it is rewarded for its obedience rather than punished for its disobedience. What can you use to reward your rabbit? Food is a popular incentive, but toys can also be used as a reward for your rabbit every time it obeys any specific command.
  • It is crucial to remember that rabbits are prey animals at all times. As a result, if they are startled, they will flee for safety. If they act this way, you must first find a way to make them feel more at ease and secure before you try to train them.
  • Considering the fact that rabbits are prey animals, one way to make them more comfortable with your presence is first to allow them to smell and see you properly. Only if the rabbit seems comfortable with your presence should you proceed to touch it. Clearing this hurdle will make your training sessions much easier to proceed with.
  • Rabbits respond favorably to kindness and make good friends. If you treat them nicely, they will respond positively to your voice and presence. While respect is an essential component of training your rabbit, you will find that your rabbit will likely respond to your training sessions when you make it a comfortable time and space.
  • Consistency is key in training rabbits. Even if you devote 5 minutes in a day to train your rabbit a particular command, you will see your rabbit picking up on these commands and implementing them, as long as you are consistent with them.

How to litter train your rabbits?

It’s pretty simple to train a rabbit to use a litter pan because they prefer to respond to nature’s call in the same place as a matter of habit.

Finding the space in your home that the rabbit has already claimed and placed a litter box (the larger, the better) there ensures that the better part of your training work is done.

But what if your bunny decided to relieve himself in your living room or some other unfortunate part of your house? One technique is to move the pan to a more desired location gradually.

For more serious cases, move the box to the desired position and mix in some dirty litter to ensure the rabbit recognizes it as his. Another option you can pick is to simply restrict your bunny’s perimeter around the litter box to get rid of any ambiguity in your rabbit’s mind.

Avoid using cat litter in your rabbit’s pan because the dust can be hazardous to your rabbit’s respiratory system. You should also resist using cedar shavings because of their lovely smell, as this can adversely impact your rabbit’s respiratory system.

Check to see if the litter is suitable for rabbits. Because they like to nibble in their surroundings, it’s critical that the litter is non-toxic if swallowed. Keep your home smelling fresh by cleaning the pan on a daily basis.

What should you feed your pet rabbit?

Feeding your rabbits can be a tricky affair. If you end up feeding them something unhealthy, being delicate creatures, it could result in severe repercussions for your rabbit. An essential part of your rabbit’s diet is hay and foods that are rich in fiber.

Additionally, you should also include healthy amounts of leafy vegetables to ensure that your rabbit eats a well-balanced diet and does not miss out on any nutrient.

Feeding a rabbit

You can also include commercially available rabbit feed if you want an easier alternative to preparing homemade food for your rabbit’s meals.

However, you must remember to exercise moderation in feeding your rabbit to prevent it from becoming obese. Consulting your veterinarian about what you should feed your rabbit to ensure a healthy diet goes a long way in ensuring your rabbit’s long-lasting health.

We have various articles that discuss what you can feed your rabbit and what you should avoid! Feel free to check those out for your easy referral too!

Health problems

You can avoid some frequent diseases and disorders in rabbits by recognizing what a healthy rabbit requires and the subtle indicators that your rabbit is ill.

Rabbits are fantastic domesticated pets, but it’s important to remember that they’re closely related to wild rabbits, so they’ll hide symptoms of illness until they’re quite sick, as this would make them “easy prey” in the wild.

Close observation of your pet rabbit, proper food, up-to-date immunizations, and frequent health checks are all recommended to catch problems early and prevent diseases from growing.

Rabbits’ common health problems are diarrhea, other gastrointestinal issues, bladder stones, coprophagy, and heat strokes.

Handling your rabbit

We’ve already mentioned it earlier in this article, but it is crucial for you to understand that being prey animals unless your rabbit is comfortable with being handled, you will be adding to your rabbit’s distress by handling and cuddling it.

Rabbit in a man's hand

Therefore, here are some points to remember when it comes to handling your rabbit.

Start when your rabbit is young.

If you begin picking up your rabbit and petting it when it is young, your rabbit will gradually become comfortable and enjoy the action as it gets older. Therefore, begin handling your rabbit when it is still a baby.

person holding white and brown rabbit

Be cautious of your rabbit’s reactions.

You must be gentle and cautious in the manner in which you approach your rabbit. Making sudden gestures or handling it violently are recipes to ensuring your rabbit despises being handled.

Handle with care

Rabbits are delicate animals. Their spines are quite fragile and will get injured if you handle them poorly or end up dropping them from a height.

Some things you must remember when handling your rabbit are to keep it close to the ground, hold them softly but firmly enough that they don’t wriggle and fall, offer support to their posterior using your palms or forearms, and avoid letting children pick them up.

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Exercising your rabbit

Rabbits are creatures that need exercise in short bursts rather than for long durations of time. Having said that, it is vital that you meet their exercise needs since this keeps them healthy and happy.

On average, your bunny should be exercising for about two to four hours daily. This does not go to say that you should try to incorporate two to four hours of endurance jogging into your rabbit’s daily routine. Instead, small bursts of intense movement are what rabbits are naturally better suited to.

Having a large area within your living space that allows your rabbit to jump and run about is essential to your rabbit’s exercising routine.

Adding some toys for your rabbit to play with or including agility circuits in your regular training time are great ways to ensure mental as well as physical stimulation for your bunny rabbit.

If your home is small or crowded, you can even consider taking your rabbit on a walk with a leash or simply letting him loose in your backyard for some part of the day. Most importantly, you must make it a point to have some time reserved for playing with you.

This will allow you to moderate the pace of your rabbit’s exercise and build a bond with your pet rabbit!

What kind of habitat is best for rabbits kept as pets?

Rabbits are energetic creatures who require plenty of space to hop, run, dig, stand fully upright on their rear legs, and stretch out while laying. Your rabbits’ health depends on a safe, well-ventilated, dry, and draught-free living environment.

Separate sleeping and toilet areas and safe spaces that they can treat as their rabbit holes within their environment are essential. Your rabbits should be kept warm with plenty of fresh bedding. To keep your pets happy and healthy, you should clean your entire home regularly.

Another thing you must remember is to provide plenty of physical space to exercise and relax. You can also include toys in their domestic environment, along with clean water and food.

While rabbits are pretty resilient to temperature fluctuations, it’s best to ensure that you keep your rabbits in a temperature range in which they are comfortable and at ease. If you prefer, you can also set up an indoor enclosure or a rabbit cage for them within your house.

Should I set up a rabbit cage for my pet rabbit?

Setting up a rabbit cage for your pet rabbit can be a great idea, especially in the first few months of their life. However, you must keep the rabbit cage indoors. Your rabbit cage should be large enough for your rabbit to move about comfortably in.

White rabbit in a cage

Choosing a cage that is at least three to four times as big as your rabbit is ideal. Having a large enclosure ensures that your rabbit can have dedicated areas to poop and pee when it needs to without compromising the hygiene of its sleeping and resting space.

If you choose to set up a rabbit cage for your pet rabbit, you must ensure that you place the cage in a dry area protected from harmful natural elements such as dirt and rain.

Moreover, you can add some form of netting around the cage to keep your rabbit well-protected against flies and other insects.

To provide warmth, comfort and prevent your rabbits from developing pressure sores on their feet, the floor of the hutch part of their cage must be wrapped in newspaper along with a bedding layer placed on top of the newspaper.

This bedding material can be made of things such as hay and straw to allow natural digging behavior. When the floor and bedding material become filthy, you should replace them. Every week or as needed, you should properly clean the cabinet.

Keeping the cage clean will also aid in disease prevention by reducing the attraction of flies to the area.

What must you do to prepare for your pet rabbit?

Bringing home a pet rabbit is likely to be one of the best decisions you make in your life. However, this can only be the case if you take some factors into consideration. The reality is that you need to put in some effort to prepare for your pet rabbit.

One of the more obvious factors that you will have to consider is budgeting your expenses. Bringing home a pet rabbit directly translates into more expenses for its vet consultations and daily necessities.

Moreover, you should prepare yourself for a long-term commitment since rabbits can live up to the age of twelve years.

Other considerations that you will have to make are that of making your home suitable for your rabbit. Buying a litter box, rabbit enclosures, protective netting for your balcony, and so on are crucial investments to ensure your rabbit leads a healthy life.

Are rabbits good pets for children?

Ideally, rabbits aren’t good pets for children. Children can often be indelicate in the way they handle small animals. Moreover, children often lose interest in pet animals when it gets difficult to maintain and take care of them.

It would help to wait till your children are old enough to understand the responsibility of bringing home a live animal that has specific needs and requirements.

How long do rabbits live?

Rabbits are creatures that have fairly long lifespans. Therefore, before bringing home a rabbit, you must be prepared for a long-term commitment.

Some breeds of rabbits can live to be 12 years old, while some others can only live up to 7 years of age. Some research does suggest that smaller breeds tend to live longer lives than larger breeds. However, there isn’t enough conclusive research on this particular aspect.

FAQs

Do Rabbits Like to Be Cuddled?

Yes, rabbits like to be cuddled, but only if they are accustomed to it and feel safe in their environment.

What Do Bunnies Eat?

Bunnies eat diets that are rich in fiber along with healthy amounts of green veggies.

Do Rabbits Use Litterboxes?

Yes, pet rabbits do use litterboxes if you train them to do so.

What Is a Rabbit’s Life Expectancy?

A rabbit’s life expectancy is about eight to ten years on average.

Is a rabbit a rodent?

No, rabbits aren’t rodents because they belong to the Lagomorpha order and not the Rodentia order.

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Gulshan
Hi, I am Gulshan, a pet blogger, and author. I've been working with the local pet groups for the past five years. I have been fascinated by our pets and am here to share that wonder with you.